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So You Tested Positive for HIV – NOW WHAT???

Actress and model Melyssa Ford will be serving up a four-part series on the state and importance of black sexual health, delving into the topics AIDS/HIV. Be informed, be safe and protect your worth.

Several days before I was scheduled to make an appearance and publicly speak on behalf of my non-profit organizations’ partner, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, I had a very vivid dream. I dreamt that I tested positive for HIV, and I immediately thought about taking my own life. I believed that my life, as I knew it, was over and not worth living anymore. Having been diagnosed with the virus, which would ultimately lead to the disease that would cause my death, coupled with ostracism from my friends and community, why go on?

The thoughts racing through my head were traveling at the speed of light. Where did I contract the virus? From whom did I contract it? WHEN? I began to think of the conversation I was going to have to have with former partners, not knowing when the virus was contracted and considering it can lay dormant for a significant period of time. Jesus, strike me down now!

And then a voice inside my head said to me, “Now you know just how full of crap you are and have been.” And I knew what it meant. I’d been preaching the word, the gospel, about HIV/AIDS Awareness, Prevention and Education for years. Sitting up on panels, encouraging folks to always know their status and to act responsibly and sitting up on my high horse knowing I had been afforded certain luxuries that allowed me to live a very responsible life. I didn’t have to sell my body in order to make money for baby formula. I didn’t live in poverty, and I didn’t live in an area with a statistically high rate of prevalence, increasing the chance of crossing paths with an infected sexual partner. And so, it seems, I could preach with a subtle sort of arrogance and apparently ignorance.

“So,” this voice said to me, “Let’s see just how full of it you are. Are you going to become a REAL advocate like Magic Johnson, Maria Davis and Marvelyn Brown, or are you going be a coward and go out like a sucker and end your life?” It’s at that point that I woke up. And I’d be lying if I said I didn’t wake up with an overwhelming sense of relief. It was just a dream, and my test results still said negative, but I was unsettled. I realized that if some young person followed my advice and got tested and tested positive, I would have no answers for them as to where to seek help and medical assistance. In that way, I was no real advocate, and I was STILL full of crap. So, I began to seek answers to the questions that needed asking--that no one ever wants to ask but so many of us should and will have to--if the statistics don’t change in the African American community.

Where can I get tested for HIV? And do the tests hurt?
The test involves a painless swab of the inside of your mouth. You have the choice of going for a confidential test at your doctor’s office or at a nearby clinic. Local health clinics usually advertise that they do free testing so it’s as easy as walking in and requesting it. If you wanted to get tested anonymously, you can get tested free of charge at a testing site offered by your states’ Health Department. You do not give a name; your test is processed by a number. If your test comes back positive, you can request professional counseling so you are made aware of all of your options in regards to health care and help with partner notification. Or you can look up free testing sites on HIVTest.org if your state health department doesn’t provide testing at their offices.

How often do I need to be tested for HIV?
Anytime you have shared needles during drug use or had unprotected sex, you should be getting tested for HIV. If you’ve had one or more STDs (Sexually Transmitted Virus) in the past, that increases your chances of contracting HIV through unprotected sex and drug use with needles. Keeping your sexual partners to a minimum and practicing safe sex is your best chance at staying healthy, where a once a year test is all that is needed.

Does testing negative for HIV mean I’m negative for all other STDs?
No it does not, and while on your next doctor’s visit, in addition to requesting your HIV test, request a test for all STDs. Our doctor’s are testing for certain things, like abnormal and possibly cancerous cells, during our PAPs and physicals. We need to verbally REQUEST all other testing for things such as Syphilis, Gonorrhea and HPV Human Papilloma Virus).

If I only give and receive oral sex, am I still at risk of contracting and passing along the HIV virus?
The risk exists but is extremely hard to determine. It’s advised to partake in this type of sexual activity only with partners you have a trusting and perhaps monogamous relationship with.

I tested Positive for HIV; what do I do now?
If you test positive for the HIV virus, prompt medical attention and consultation is an absolute necessity. Early medical treatment and a healthy lifestyle can delay the onset of AIDS, which is the disease. To determine when is the best time to start HIV medications your doctor will take 2 tests: one is a viral load test which determines how much HIV is in your blood stream; the other is a T-cell test, also known as a CD4 count, which determines how strong your immune system is. There are cases of people living with the HIV virus for up to 10 years without a single symptom, but that isn’t for you to determine on your own.

Your doctor will want to test you for Tuberculosis and other STD’s as they can cause serious health problems for you.


I have no health insurance and I have limited finances; how do I pay for treatment?
There are programs that assist those that fall below a certain income levels. The AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP) offers federal assistance, but a number of different local groups in each city also offer assistance. Www.Health.gov is a website that can help you locate local groups that offer assistance in your city.

HIV/AIDS is a serious but chronic manageable disease.  People who get treatment tend to live relatively normal lives, generally longer than the 1/3 of Americans with serious cardiovascular disease or diabetes.  It is far more treatable than most cancers, specifically breast and cervical cancer, which kills at a significantly higher rate than HIV.  However it is quite serious and has a real impact on those who live with it, and will eventually kill most people who are infected and get no doctor's attention or treatment. But most people in this country live many decades after becoming infected. According to Robert Bailey from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: “Person’s infected with HIV who begin treatment early are 96% less likely to transmit the virus to their sexual partners, and more likely to live very long lives because early treatment lowers the amount of HIV in the body. What’s unfortunate is that, of the 1.2 million American’s living with HIV, only 28% are receiving regular care, taking the necessary medicine and have viral suppression, and that needs to change.”

We need to stop thinking and talking about HIV/AIDS as if it is still 1981, and start to develop the same kind of supportive environment for those who are HIV positive as we do for victims of cancer or heart disease.  A lot has changed in terms of medical advancement for HIV care over the last 30 years – however, the level of public ignorance about it remains quite stagnant and the disproportionate contraction rates in our community in comparison to other nationalities only supports this fact; as the saying goes “What hurts just one hurts us all”.

To get the facts about HIV/AIDS visit www.actagainstaids.org.

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Kush & Splendor: 5 CBD Beauty Products That’ll Take Your Self-Care Routine From 0 To 100

Lotions, creams, and salves—oh my! With cannabidiol (CBD) popping up in just about every product you can imagine, the cannabis-infused beauty industry is clearly on the come-up. In fact, analysts predict that the “wellness” movement—as well as the legalization of Mary Jane across the world—will help rake in $25 billion globally in the next 10 years, according to Business Insider. That’s 15 percent of the $167 billion skincare market.

And what better way to up the ante on one’s wellness routine than with all-natural CBD? Just ask Dr. Lana Butner, naturopathic doctor and acupuncturist at NYC’s Modrn Sanctuary, who incorporates CBD in her treatments.

“CBD is a fantastic addition to acupuncture sessions for both its relaxation and anti-inflammatory, pain-relieving effects,” Butner shares with Vixen. “The calming effects of CBD allows for patients to deeply relax into the treatment and really tap into the parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for rest, digestion and muscle repair/regeneration.”

She adds that CBD’s pain-relieving effects are “far-reaching,” from muscular and joint pains to migraines and arthritis—and even IBS and indigestion.

The magic lies in CBD’s ability to impact endocannabinoid receptor activity in our bodies. Without getting too wordy, our bodies come equipped with a system called the endocannabinoid system (ECS), which is the HBIC over our sleep, appetite, pain and immune system response. Also known as cannabidiol, CBD teams up with this system to help reduce inflammation and interact with neurotransmitters. According to Healthline, CBD has also been scientifically shown to impact the brain’s receptors for serotonin, the neurotransmitter responsible for regulating our mood and social behavior.

All that said, it’s important to note that not all CBD products are created equal. Many brands cashing in on the green beauty wave use hemp seed oil, sometimes referred to as cannabis sativa seed oil, in place of CBD... which doesn’t make them any less great! Hemp seed oil is actually high in antioxidants, amino acids, and omega-3 and -6 fatty acids—all of which are thebomb.com for your skin.

“It’s generally viewed as a superfood and is great for adding nutritional value to your diet,” Ashley Lewis, co-founder of Fleur Marché, told Well and Good last month. “In terms of skin care, it’s known as a powerful moisturizer and skin softener that doesn’t clog pores or contribute to oily skin.”

However, when companies start marketing CBD and hemp oil as one-in-the-same, that’s when things get a bit tricky.

“The biggest issue is that hemp seed oil and CBD are two totally different compounds that come from different parts of the hemp plant, have different makeups, and different benefits,” Lewis added. “Marketing them as the same thing just isn’t accurate and does a disservice to consumers who are expecting certain benefits that they won’t get from hemp seed oil and who are often paying more for what they think is CBD.”

So if you’re looking to benefit from the perks specifically attributed to CBD, make sure you’re reading labels before buying, and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Hell, ask for a product’s test results, while you’re at it. It never hurts to be sure.

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, are you ready to see what all the hype is about? For this 4/20, we rounded up a few CBD (and hemp!)-infused products to help give your self-care routine a bit of a boost. Looks like your holiday just got that much kushier. You’re welcome!

Note: Data and regulations surrounding CBD and its use are still in development. That said, please don’t take anything written in this post as medical or legal advice, and definitely double check the laws in your state. Also, please do your body a favor and hit up your doctor before trying any new supplements. We’re just tryna look out for you. Okay? Okay. Read on.

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Vivica A. Fox Explains Past Hesitance Behind 'Two Can Play That Game' Script

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"I think the reason why—no I know the reason why—I've been doing this for such a long time is that I fight," Fox said. "When we did Two Can Play That Game, I fought for the way we talked, walked, the way we loved each other." The Set It Off actress continued to state that she consistently declined Two Can Play That Game before signing on to play the lead role. "Because the script, when I first got it, I turned it down three times because it just wasn't a good representation of African-Americans, so I fought them on everything," she noted. "I want to make sure that the images of African-Americans are as positive and as true as they can possibly be."

In 2001, the romantic comedy debuted to fanfare, boasting an all-star cast of Morris Chestnut, Mo'Nique, Anthony Anderson, Bobby Brown, Gabrielle Union, Wendy Raquel Robinson, and more. Directed by Mark Brown (Barbershop, Iverson, How To Be A Player), Fox plays a career driven person named Shante Smith who navigates a curveball when her boyfriend Keith Fenton (Chestnut) cheats on her with a co-worker.

After its release, Two Can Play That Game raked in over $22 million at the box office.

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Actress Gabrielle Union attends the Being Mary Jane premiere, screening, and party on January 9, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Bennett Raglin/Getty Images for BET)
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BET To Unveil Edible Billboard For 'Being Mary Jane' Wedding Finale

As Being Mary Jane comes to an end, BET is willing to offer fans a taste of what's to come in the series finale.

The network has enlisted the help of Ayesha Curry, celebrity cook and cookbook author, to create an edible billboard that also doubles as a wedding cake. The sweet treat will commemorate Mary Jane's (played by Gabrielle Union) nuptials in the two-hour series finale.

On April 20 from 1:00 P.M. to 7:00 P.M. at Brooklyn's Atlantic Terminal in New York, fans will be presented with the edible billboard. At the intersection of Ashland Place and Hanson Place, the closer Being Mary Jane enthusiasts get to the billboard the quicker they'll notice that the four-tiered wedding cake is created from individual boxes, each containing a slice of Curry's prized wedding cake.

All fans have to do is pull a box from the billboard, snap a picture for the 'Gram, take a bite and enjoy. Although lovers of the show won't be able to celebrate with Mary Jane herself, biting into a slice of her wedding cake, for free, is the next best thing.

Don't forget to tune into the series finale of Being Mary Jane on Tues. (April 23) at 8/7 c.

Also, check out what's to come on the series of Being Mary Jane below.

Save the date! 👰🏾It'll be worth the wait. Join us for the series finale of #BeingMaryJane TUES APR 23 8/7c only on @BET! pic.twitter.com/jEwkbC71OW

— #BeingMaryJane (@beingmaryjane) March 29, 2019

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